You can get away with missing a deadline or two in high school. As you work your way into your senior year, though, and apply to colleges, deadlines start to become a big deal. Missing a deadline now might mean that you don’t get into the college of your choice, or that you don’t have the money to pay for it, so start learning about these deadlines now:

1. Admission Application Deadlines: This is the deadline where you have to get your application, essay, video, documentation or other requirements to the colleges you want to attend. Check on their website to learn what they need, and then work your way backwards to leave yourself enough time to apply. Different types include the Common Application, Coalition Application, Universal Application, or college-specific application. No matter which application is required, it has to be submitted by a specific date:

  • Early Decision: This is a binding agreement to enroll and submit a deposit upon acceptance. Most early decision deadlines are November 1 or 15, but some schools do offer Early Decision II with a deadline in January.
  • Early Action: You apply earlier and are accepted earlier, but are not obligated to accept an offer and probably do not have to submit a deposit. These deadlines are usually in early November as well.
  • Regular Admission: These deadlines usually fall anywhere from late December to mid-January.
  • Rolling Decision: Rolling deadlines are more flexible, but the schools often start accepting students earlier in the process, so you might not be accepted if you wait too long. 

2. College Entrance Test Deadlines: You want to take the tests with sufficient time for the results to be forwarded to your school of choice, which typically takes about two weeks. But many students choose to take the test twice, so you will need to leave yourself additional time to get results from the first attempt and prepare for the second test session. Usually, the last chance to take the ACT is in September and the SAT is in October for early decision or early action deadlines, but keep in mind that you might not be able to see your results before they are submitted.

3. Financial Aid Deadlines: Understand that financial aid can come from the federal government, your state government, or your school. Each of these might have submission deadlines. Whether they use the FAFSA, CSS Profile, or their own form, colleges may want you to have your financial aid application submitted by mid-November, depending on the type of admission you are seeking. In any case, it is always a good idea to submit your application as soon as possible as some programs have limited funding available.

4. Scholarship Deadlines: Scholarship deadlines can vary widely. Many are due by December of your senior year, but others are quite flexible.

Work with your parents to list out deadlines and requirements, and put them on a spreadsheet or calendar to keep track.